From our base at Split we were perfectly placed to visit some of the stunning natural scenery that Croatia has to offer. And where better to see some of the very best on offer than at some of the country’s national parks.
First up was the three and a half hour trip to Plitvice Lakes, the largest national park in Croatia and the oldest national park in South East Europe.
Plitvice Lakes national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia.
It’s made up of 16 interconnected lakes – the Upper and Lower lake areas, separated by the large Kozjak lake.
Once in the park we take the panoramic land train to the upper lakes to begin our walk (included in the entrance ticket price).
Check out the park logo – a brown bear! These wily creatures are just some of the wildlife that roams this huge, beautiful area. Other inhabitants include wolves, lynx, wildcats and around 157 different types of bird.
The park extends over 296.85 square kilometres (73,350 acres) and the 16 lakes are arranged in cascades. There are a variety of different walking routes that visitors can take.
These range in duration from a gentle two hour potter all the way to a day long, eight hour trek. You can plan your trip in advance here.
Visitors can get up close and personal to the lakes thanks to a series of wooden walkways that criss cross the park and waterways.
The lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. Around every corner is yet another breath taking view of a serene lake or thundering waterfall.
Due to the heavy rains this year, the lakes and waterfalls were all at full capacity with the volume of water creating incredible natural spectacles. It also made the walking a little muddy .. . .
The lakes are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria.
The name Plitvice was first mentioned in a written document in 1777 by Dominik Vukasović, the priest of Otočac.
This name was given thanks to the natural phenomena that created the lakes. These are naturally formed shallow basins – in Croatian known as pličina or plitvak – which have been filled with water.
Autumn adds its own golden tones to the spectacular landscape, and when the sunlight hits the trees and water it is simply breath taking.
The lakes are well known for their distinctive and beautiful colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or turquoise blue.
They are like the most delicate of artist’s palettes and the colours change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
We were lucky enough to see the waters in a variety of different lights. The day went from cloudy and overcast with corresponding slatey grey waters to sun shine and blue skies that turned the lakes and pools into enchanting mirrors of green and aqua.
The lakes of Plitvice are a result of century-old processes and the sedimentation of chalk, which is abundantly available in the waters of this karst area. These sedimentations are called tufa or travertine.
The park has a fairy-tale like feel. If it wasn’t for the hordes of tourists (trust us – we picked a national holiday to visit!) you’d expect to see some woodland nymph or middle earth hobbit poke their heads from behind a tree.
Also included in the entrance ticket price is a boat trip to take you between the upper and lower lakes, however, due to the massive volume of visitors we couldn’t get on! So we only managed to see the upper lake area.